Tuesday, November 11, 2014

12 Ways to Entertain a Toddler on a Rainy Day

Welcome to the November 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Indoor Play This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared ideas and inspiration to keep families happy and healthy while cooped up indoors.


Here in sunny San Diego, it's really not that often that cold weather keeps us indoors.  On the contrary, we are more likely to be stuck inside due to extreme heat than we are to winter weather!

But it's officially autumn now, and winter is a few short months away.  Not only that, but lately it's actually started to feel like fall.  It's been cold in the mornings (I actually had to find my bathrobe!), it stays cooler until lunchtime-ish on most days, and it's actually been so cold at night that I'm making my son sleep in socks and long pants and considering adding another blanket to my bed!  (Now if only Bug would sleep under a blanket too...)

We may not get a lot of rain here, but rainy days are coming.  And since I don't have a car most days, inclement weather may actually keep us housebound this year.  Strange thought, right?

But... but... how do you keep a toddler entertained on a rainy day?

A good question.  And for me, a rainy day honestly won't be that different from a non-rainy day, insofar as keeping Bug busy goes.  But since I want to shake things up a little sometimes, here's a fun list of ways we might be occupying ourselves on rainy days.

1.  Play outside anyway!
Because who cares if it's wet outside?  Bundle up in long pants, a warm jacket, a hat, and some rain boots and hit the streets (er... sidewalks) anyway.  It doesn't matter if you get a little damp if you're heading right back home where there's a warm shower and something hot to drink.  And who doesn't love splashing in puddles?

2.  Make homemade play dough.
Every kid loves play dough.  I love play dough, and I'm technically an adult.  We don't have play dough on hand often, mostly because, historically speaking, play dough time usually just turns into Bug asking me to make snakes and people and cats and whatnot.  Sometimes, this boy really overestimates my creative abilities.  But I digress.  Play dough is fun, but why buy it in the store when it's so easy to make at home?  Chances are you already have all the basic ingredients in your pantry right now: flour, salt, oil, cream of tartar, and food coloring (if you want to get fancy), plus water.  So go mix up a batch and have a go!

3.  Make a batch of salt dough.
If you've never heard of salt dough, it's basically like modeling clay made of salt, flour, and water.  It keeps for awhile in a tightly-covered container, or you can let it dry out (or stick it in a low-temp oven for a long time to hasten the process, or toss it in the microwave for a much shorter period of time) and then paint it or otherwise decorate it.  It's fun for making presents to send to grandparents, or for taking foot- or hand-print casts of your little ones. 

4.  Fun with potato stamps.
Got some potatoes?  Got some paint, or stamp ink pads that you don't mind potentially ruining?  Then make some potato stamps!  Simply cut a potato in half, dip the cut side in paint, and stamp on paper.  Think of oval-ish things that you can further decorate with markers.  Pumpkins?  Balloons?  Apples?  Or just have fun making polka dots all over the page.  If you really want to get fancy, you can try cutting designs into the cut side of the potato, but that's probably more work than you'll catch me doing!

5.  Or try finger painting!
If you don't have potatoes, why not just have fun with finger painting?  This might not be recommendable depending on your toddler's age, but if you think they'll stay in their seat for awhile (or acquiesce to being confined somewhere that is easier to clean, like the bathroom or the patio), then get out some (washable) paint and let them have at it.  Bonus mommy (or daddy) points if you get your fingers dirty too!

6.  Bake something.  Anything.
I don't know about you, but my son absolutely LOVES to help me in the kitchen.  As in, he gets the bowl out and demands flour and baking powder.  As in, he gets mad if he discovers that I've mixed up even a batch of pancake batter without his assistance.  And since a rainy day is complemented by a batch of warm cookies (or a loaf of pumpkin bread, or a cake, or a pie... take your pick), why not use this opportunity to let your toddler help you make something yummy?  What all they can actually do to help depends on their age and ability level; my son is currently 2 and 9 months, and he loves helping me measure ingredients (meaning, I measure them and he adds them to the bowl, or sometimes he holds the measuring spoon when I'm measuring liquid ingredients), mix them together, and dump them in the pan.  When I'm feeling adventurous, we wash his hands extra thoroughly and I'll let him help shape cookies.  But kitchen stuff is always a win with my Bug.

7.  Sing together!
My son loves to sing.  I have been singing to him ever since he was an infant, and now he sings with me!  Well, kind of.  But the point is, singing is always a fun activity in our home.  Sing nursery rhymes, lullabies, camp songs, Christmas carols, pop songs... whatever you happen to know will be fine.  Try making some song flash cards if you find yourself always wondering what to sing next.  Pick up some non-annoying children's music CDs from the library (I am a fan of everything Sandra Boynton has made!), or make a YouTube playlist of kids' songs that you can sing together.

8.  Send some mail to someone you love.

I can't send mail to anyone without Bug wanting to add his own personal touch with his crayons.  So why not make a card for Grandma & Grandpa (or other relatives or friends) just for the fun of decorating it?  Get out the crayons or markers, have fun with potato stamps, or get some regular rubber stamps.  Cut shapes out of construction paper and glue them on a card.  Add stickers if you want.  Help your toddler sign their name, then address it for them, add a stamp, and put it in your outgoing mail pile. 

9.  Take a bath.
What?  Did you think this was going to be all about creative things to do?  Bug loves bathtime (...sometimes...), so sometimes a bubble bath with all his favorite toys (or some new ones) is just the ticket for staying busy for an hour or so.

10.  Make popcorn.
On the same note as the "bake something" idea above, why not make some old fashioned popcorn on the stove?  Admittedly, a toddler can't really help all that much with the actual "making" part.  My son helps me measure out the kernels.  The way I make it involves removing the pot from the heat for 30 seconds immediately after adding the kernels, and Bug enjoys trying to count along with me.  Where they can really get in on the action is with adding seasonings to the cooked popcorn.  Salt?  Parmesan cheese?  Nutritional yeast?  Curry powder?  Let your own tastes dictate your choices... and probably pre-measure those ingredients before you let your toddler add them.

11.  Clean the house.
Put your toddler to work!  No, seriously.  Toddlers love to help, so why not find some appropriate tasks for them to work at while you get some real cleaning done?  My son loves to help with sweeping, wiping down counters (we use homemade cleaners for this), and folding laundry.  He'll help me put his toys away (I try to take periodic breaks during the day to clean up a little, otherwise our living room would constantly be a disaster area), and he likes to feed the cat (which isn't housework, but still something that needs to be done every day).  Find ways to nurture your toddler's desire to help, and maybe when they're teenagers they won't complain as much about having to do chores.  (Maybe?  That's what I keep telling myself, anyway.)

12.  Make a rainy day box.
Okay, so this is not something you can do spur-of-the-moment, but it's worth thinking about and preparing for before those rainy days actually hit.  If your toddler really does start to get cabin fever, a good solution is to bring out something new.  To that end, I'm slowly putting together a "rainy day box" with some brand new craft supplies.  It'll be like my secret weapon, ready to pull out when we simply can't leave the house but have exhausted all other ideas.  Here are some of my ideas for what to go in it:  new crayons/markers/drawing supplies (because new always trumps older, used ones), a fresh drawing pad, small rubber stamp kits, pipe cleaners, straws, empty toilet paper or paper towel tubes... It's a work in progress, so I'm sure the contents will change with trial and error and as my son grows, but I'm hoping it'll help stave off the worst of the rainy day restlessness.


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  1. For your rainy day box idea - I was reading something the other day about calm-down boxes for kids with SPD, and I thought about how much of that would also be great for toddlers. Because, really, what toddler doesn't have some kind of sensory craving?! I'm planning on putting a few goodies in my little one's stocking this year: a stress ball is #1 on my list!

    1. That sounds like a great idea! I bet a stress ball would be all kinds of fun. I will have to go look up calm-down boxes for more ideas. Thank you!

  2. Potato stamps! I haven't made those in years. Those are so fun.

    We take baths pretty much daily because my three-year-old insists they're the best thing ever. I love that they keep him entertained for a good while!

    1. Me too. To be honest, my toddler hasn't been wanting to take baths much lately; he's a big fan of showers. But when I can convince him to take one, a bath can keep him busy for a pretty long while! And better yet, I can sometimes sneak a little reading in while he plays. ;)

  3. Love this post! I'm a big fan of salt dough, baking and singing. And dancing! Mustn't forget the dancing ;-) Think I'll go and have a boogie right now... Thanks for sharing your ideas. They're very welcome :-)

    1. Dancing! That's what my list is missing. We do love a good dance party in this house!

  4. Potato stamps?!?!?! That sounds awesome. I have never heard of it but darnit we are doing it when it rains all next week!

    1. If you want to get really crazy, go search Pinterest for potato stamps. I'm pretty boring with mine, but the Internet is full of creative ways to take potato stamps even further!